Return of the Fire Escape Garden


No sad tomatoes or single string-bean harvests this time. I’m not going to run the risk of having another landlord ask me to toss my hard work into the garbage again, so I’m playing it small — just a mint plant and some basil (pictured L and R above, respectively).

These are two of my absolute favorite herbs to use (and if I can just find an Italian parsley plant, I’ll hit my herb trifecta). Right now, the mint plant is struggling a bit. I bought it from the supermarket, only to find it was not as healthy as it appeared initially. It’s (very slowly) bouncing back now, which should get better once I get it into a new pot.

The basil, however, is loving life out on the (usually hot and very sunny) fire escape. It started to yellow a bit due to my fussy habit of over-watering it, but it recovered enough that I recently plucked it down to nearly nothing to make a batch of pesto.

I used to believe (like a lot of people do, I think) that pesto was a little scary and maybe out of my culinary league, because it’s one of those foods that people take so seriously. Pesto is SRS BZNSS, they say, and for years, I bought into that. And then, years ago, my friend Lisa BK was talking about making pesto like it was no big thing, and was all “pfft, hell no, girl, it’s crazy easy” and then talked me into making it. And she was right.

Crazy Easy Pesto
Get a couple cups of basil leaves together. Wash them and dry them really well. Like really bone dry, if you can. Put these leaves and a smashed clove of garlic (or two, if you’re sassy, but I usually use one) in a food processor or blender. Whiz this around until it’s pretty chopped up. Scrape the sides down, add a little pinch of salt and some olive oil (like 1/4 to 1/2 cup). Start your machine back up and pour in more olive oil in a very thin little stream until it gets… pesto-y. At this point, I usually pop it in a jar and put a thin layer of oil on top (which keeps the surface from getting oxidized and brown). When I’m ready to use it, I take it back out of the fridge, let it get to room temperature and add finely grated Romano cheese.  (I don’t do pine nuts because have you seen how much those things cost?) I like my pesto on gnocchi or cavatelli, but it’s good on pretty much anything. 

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